Rwandans have been cautioned against flouting New Coronavirus preventive measures, one week after the City of Kigali was put under lockdown to contain the spread of the virus, after it emerged that city dwellers are not adhering well to the guidelines.
While appearing on a weekly show to provide updates on the state of COVID-19 in Rwanda, on Rwanda Television (RTV), Senior Government officials revealed that many people have been caught on the wrong side of the law over the past week while others have continued to move without clearance.
The Minister of Health Dr. Daniel Ngamije said that since the lockdown was imposed, they are seeing the number of cases in Kigali declining but they are increasing in other districts, pointing out however that it is still too early to determine if the lockdown can be lifted or not.
“We are still getting over 200 daily cases. Over the last two or three days, we are seeing the numbers in Kigali declining and increasing in other provinces of the country, surpassing the city. We will do an assessment to see the impact of the lockdown in containing the spread,”
“But I cannot say we are at a point when we can lift the lockdown, it is still too early to tell,” Dr Ngamije said, indicating that the ongoing testing exercise in different sectors of the city will also help them get a clear picture of the situation.
Dr. Ngamije said that they are targeting to test at least 20, 000 people in their villages in selected sectors of the city, to get a clear picture of where the new infections are concentrated and where these people live.
“Previously we used to test randomly on the streets, at roundabouts and other strategic locations but this wasn’t giving us the full picture because we don’t know where these people lived. This new approach will help us know exactly where the infections are and come up with specific measures of these communities,” the Minister of Health said.
He said the exercise targets mainly the elderly and people with underlying conditions since they are more exposed and this would help manage the patients before they get in critical condition.
Dr. Ngamije said the approach is more effective because out of more than 4,500 tests carried out on day one on Saturday, 220 positive tests were recorded, mainly among people above 70.
On the ability to handle critical cases, Dr. Ngamije said that currently the country has the capacity to handle 500 patients in critical, revealing that currently all patients in critical condition have been moved to the ultra-modern Nyarugenge District Hospital, which is the new main COVID-19 treatment centre.
“That is not to say that we have closed Kanyinya Health Centre, where they were being treated before. We still have 62 beds there; in case we need more beds. We have more beds in Gatenga and Gatsata Health Centres,” Dr. Ngamije said.
He said all hospitals across the country have at least 10 ICU Beds, in readiness for COVID-19 emergencies. The Health Minister said that over the last two days, over 45 patients who were previously among those in critical condition, were discharged.
The Minister of Local Government Prof. Anastase Shyaka, said that over the past week, many people are deliberately making unnecessary movements, which goes against the very reasons the lockdown was imposed.
“We issued a list of essential services which must continue, including construction activities, trade in food stuffs and health services but these same services are being exploited by people to leave their homes under the pretext of going for essential services,”
“You find someone with two clusters of bananas in a bag moving around, going from one place to another under the pretext of shopping, you also have others wearing sportswear, moving around unnecessarily, pretending to be doing sports. This does not help us. We need a sense of ownership,” Prof. Shyaka said.
Because of this, Prof. Shyaka reiterated the decision of the Ministry of Sports to issue new directives permitting people to do sports between 5am and 9am, in adhering to COVID-19 preventive measures and strictly in their village boundaries, as a result of flouting guidelines.
Prof. Shyaka said that the government has put in place measures to ensure that those who want to get to health centres or hospitals have means and should get in touch with local leaders if the need arises.
“Local leaders have been briefed on the importance of this. Nobody should fall sick and fail to get to access medical care,” Prof. Shyaka said.
According to CP George Rumanzi, the Commissioner in Charge of Operations at Rwanda National Police (RNP), police officers enforcing lockdown measures are facing a huge number of people who are moving without any valid reason, in violation of government measures.
“We are seeing a lot of people moving from one place to another with no valid reason to show that they are going for essential services. In just five days, for a period between January 19 and 23, we apprehended 1,221 vehicles which were moving without clearance,”
“We also got 2, 489 people who didn’t have essential reasons for moving around. We also got 141 people who were engaged in activities that can lead to the spread of COVID-19. These were in bars drinking and or had closed themselves in houses where they were holding parties or drinking,” CP Rumanzi said.
Rumanzi also said that many people are requesting for clearance to move yet they don’t have any serious reason to do so, revealing that Police received over 73,000 clearance requests in just one week, of which 58, 000 were approved and over 15, 000 denied because people did not provide legitimate reasons.
He said that in other cases people provide unrealistic reasons like going to buy foodstuffs in another district as though they don’t have shops or markets near where they live.
“You cannot request clearance to move from Kimironko to Nyamirambo just to buy foodstuffs, as though you can’t find them nearby. This does not make sense at all,” CP Rumanzi said, adding that in other cases, people just put in requests for clearance that are unrealistic like going to far off districts like Karongi by foot, giving police unnecessary work.
The senior police officer urged people to adhere to COVID-19 preventive measures and make the work of the police easy and also not spoil chances for people who have legitimate reasons to move.
He said that the police team works 24/7 to ensure that all requests whether via the website or through SMS are individually attended to. Prof. Shyaka called on the public to have a sense of responsibility in adhering to the COVID-19 measures which will directly help the country to defeat the pandemic and go back to normal life.